One of my best mates is a Northampton fan. Neither of us could make yesterday due to family commitments, but it was interesting to receive his message beforehand suggesting he thought Wasps had a stronger twenty three (let’s not forget Northampton had huge injury and availability problems of their own). He sent a message towards the end of the game with genuine disbelief about how the fixture had panned out. I was pleased for him..
Let us not dress this up, Wasps are really struggling. Huge issues with injuries, new players are struggling to settle in, and a brilliant ten minute spell against Bath aside, there has been very little to cheer about so far this season. The spark and attacking flair that was prevalent for the majority of last term is really in short supply at the moment.
In theory, a home game against Bristol is an ideal opportunity to get back to winning ways. In theory. Anyone who watched their game today against Exeter will be concerned, as well as anyone who witnessed their performance against Wasps last weekend. This is undoubtedly the toughest premiership in many a year, and this is going to be a difficult match, where it would not surprise many if Bristol got a positive result.
So, it is easy to write about what is going wrong, but less easy to suggest sensible solutions. Here are three:
- Get on the phone to Eddie Jones, and suggest that he does not need both Nathan Hughes and Brad Shields for next weekend. Ideally, Wasps would like both available for Bristol, but I would suggest Nathan is more likely.
- Consider very strongly fielding weaker teams for the European games. I am all for winning breeds confidence, but Wasps have very little chance of getting out of that pool, and I see little value in risking further injuries. Concentrate on the league.
- Settle on a centre combination and stick with it. Lima Sopoaga is struggling but it cannot help having a different 12 outside him every week. You cannot underestimate how good it was for Danny Cipriani to have both Jimmy Gopperth and Willie Le Roux playing for the majority of last season to share some of the play-making responsibilities. Lima has not had that luxury this term, which must prove challenging.
If I could give one example of why Wasps are struggling thought it would be this. As daft as it may sound, one of my favourite games last season was the semi final against Saracens, almost six months ago to the day. Though Wasps got pulled apart defensively, they scored five tries that day that were of the upmost quality, and nearly had two more through disallowed efforts from Gopperth and Elliot Daly.
The starting backs that match were as follows, Robson, Cipriani, Daly, Gopperth, de Jongh, Wade, Le Roux. Yesterday, the starting backs were Simpson, Sopoaga, Bassett, Lovobalavu, de Jongh, Watson, Miller. Just six months on, due to a whole range of factors, Wasps are struggling to put out a back division that can get anywhere close to matching that attacking threat.
It hurts at the moment, and to be honest, it could get worse before it gets better when you look a the fixtures Wasps have coming up. Saying that though, it is also worth having a look at the league table. Despite being pretty average this season, Wasps are sitting in 4th place. A win on Saturday, with international players then returning, including an exciting new Italian centre, and things might be not that bad after all……..